Proposals to privatize the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have gained steam since an ongoing wait-times scandal broke two years ago, but President Barack Obama has come out against the idea in an interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Despite what Obama called "challenges" getting veterans into the VA system, care quality and patient satisfaction remain high for VA care, he said. The president also praised the work of Robert McDonald, who he appointed to run the department after Eric Shinseki resigned over the initial care delay revelations in 2014. Obama also cited the passage of the Veterans Access to Care Act in 2014, which allows VA patients with geographical barriers to the nearest VA facility to receive care in the private sector. Obama noted the number of homeless veterans is down nearly 30 percent, but acknowledged some systemic problems will not go away quickly.
"There's some things that are going to be 20-month projects. There's some things that are going to be five-year projects," Obama said. "For example, changing IT systems so that processing appointments for healthcare doesn't take weeks or months; that's the kind of thing that we start now. We get the systems rolling. They may not all be complete by the time we leave, but we will be at a much better place than we were."
Others, however, said privatization shouldn't be off the table; retired Maj. Gen. Irv Halter told the Gazette that while he'd have to see details on any privatization plans, he increasingly suspected veterans' needs are simply beyond the agency's capabilities.
To learn more:
- here's the Gazette article